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Clarity Needed Amidst Tomato Contamination Confusion
Date:6/11/2008

Heat-Processed Tomato Products Are Not a Potential Salmonella Risk

APTOS, Calif., June 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As consumers are being warned about consuming certain raw tomatoes due to possible contamination with salmonella, the Tomato Products Wellness Council (TomatoWellness.com) emphasized today that heat-processed tomato products -- such as sauces, soups, paste, ketchup and juice -- remain a safe choice for consumers to continue enjoy. In processing tomato products, heat reaches at least 160 degrees.

"Salmonella and other pathogens are killed at 145 degrees," said Britt Burton-Freeman, Ph.D., at the National Center for Food Safety & Technology of the Illinois Institute of Technology. "Since tomato products are heat processed at temperatures well above that, consumers can feel assured about continuing to use them."

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service, processed tomato products account for more than 80 percent of all tomatoes consumed in the United States. Within hours of being picked from the vine at peak ripeness, tomatoes harvested to become shelf-stable products are cooked and sealed in containers. This not only guarantees their optimal flavor and safety from salmonella and other food-borne pathogens, the heating process also provides an enhanced value of lycopene, an antioxidant that helps fight disease. Tomato products also offer important nutrients like vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber. Clinical trials show heart-health and other benefits of consuming tomato products.

While some health experts traditionally have recommended shopping the perimeter of the grocery store for the most nutritious options like fresh produce, the center of the store may warrant a closer look, given salmonella concerns and rising food costs. Canned whole or diced tomatoes can be used as alternatives for raw tomatoes in summer favorites like salads and cold soups like gazpacho, as well as salsas
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SOURCE Tomato Products Wellness Council
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